Catalogue Entry: MINT00322

Response to an order to report on gold and silver coin in Britain

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MINT 19/2/111-16, National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, UK

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


Highly detailed analysis of the gold-silver value ratio in each major European country, China, Japan and 'East India' [i.e. the Indian subcontinent], and the value of a British gold guinea under each system. Concludes that by comparison with all other countries except Spain, Britain over-values gold relative to silver, resulting in excessive export of silver and a strong incentive to melt down silver coin (since it is worth more as bullion), and hence a shortage of silver coin. Though this could be remedied in the short term by coining from silver plate, of which there is no shortage, this would only encourage the export of such silver. In time, market forces will in any case raise the value of silver relative to gold as it becomes scarcer, but [Newton's report heavily implies] government intervention to reduce the face value of the gold guinea would usefully speed the process up.

This is either a draft or a copy of Newton's holograph original, also dated 21 September 1717, T. 1/208.43, MINT01000. There is also a clerical copy in Babson College, Ms. 429. The report was first published in the Daily Courant, no. 5057 (30 December 1717) and has been frequently reprinted: in Prior, Observations, 27-32, as a House of Commons paper on 5 March 1830, in McCulloch, Select Tracts, 274-9, in Shaw, 189-95, and in NC, 6: 415-19. See also NC, 6: 407-8 (T. 27/22.200b, MINT01064,Treasury's order for this report, dated 12 August 1717), and Westfall, 837-8.

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